Law Offices of Tim Powers, Denton, Texas
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals today held in
Texas v. Granville that the Fourth Amendment protects against searches of cell phones incident
to arrest. Texans now cannot have the contents of their cell phones and
other electronic devices searched indiscriminately after they're booked
in jail. This was a major privacy and Fourth Amendment victory, once again
putting the state at the forefront of electronic privacy issues nationally.
Denton attorney and Legal analyst for the Russ Martin Show on 97.1 KEGL
summarized the ruling. "The primary issue was whether the Fourth
Amendment exception that allows searches of an arrestee's property
for contraband also allows a wholesale search of a cell phone. The decision
has a good explanation about why modern technology requires heightened
protection above that applied to shoes, pants, etc. The decision even
cites with approval the recent DC Circuit decision holding the NSA metadata
collection program unconstitutional." Here's an notable excerpt
from the majority opinion:
The term "papers and effects" obviously carried a different connotation
in the late eighteenth century than it does today. No longer are they
stored only in desks, cabinets, satchels, and folders. Our most private
information is now frequently stored in electronic devices such as computers,
laptops, iPads, and cell phones, or in "the cloud" and accessible
by those electronic devices. But the "central concern underlying
the Fourth Amendment" has remained the same throughout the centuries;
it is "the concern about giving police officers unbridled discretion
to rummage at will among a person's private effects." This is
a case about rummaging through a citizen's electronic private effects
– a cell phone – without a warrant.
majority opinion from Judge Cochran, a
concurrence from Judge Keller, and a lone
dissent from Judge Keasler.
The US Supreme Court agreed this term to consider similar issues in a pair
of related cases.
According to Reuters, "The court will hear oral arguments in April and issue rulings by
the end of June. The cases are Riley v. California, 13-132 and U.S. v.
Wurie, 13-212." The Texas CCA opinion governs state and local law
enforcement, not the feds.